Angry African Land investors last night warned The Financial Conduct Authority: Hands Off Yoni Farm.
Scores of worried investors fear the FCA are wrong to have taken action against African Land without properly consulting them – and vowed to send letters in support of the ethical investment scheme.
Some investors fear African Land could be closed because of the action – prompting fears that Yoni Farm in Sierra Leone could be axed costing hundreds of African’s their jobs.
The FCA issued proceedings against Capital Alternatives and 15 other parties which included African Land in July 2013.
The FCA believe African Land and others were running a Collective Investment Scheme – or CIS – and as a result should not have been raising funds without the FCA’s permission.
African Land immediately refuted the claims and have vowed to defend it’s position – and that of its investors – in court if necessary.
Yet despite numerous offers to work with the FCA and invitations to visit Yoni Farm in Sierra Leone the publicly funded body – established to protect investors – has remained defiant in their stance and their case will begin today in the Chancery Division of the Royal Courts of Justice.
The FCA’s announcement understandably left some investors nervous and feeling that the FCA’s attention was unwanted.
Respected former journalist Mary Miller Thomas has been an investor with African Land from concept stage. She insists the FCA are wrong to pursue African Land.
Malicious or Naive
She believes the FCA investigation is “malicious or naive” at best – and demonstrates a total “lack of understanding of the nature of a project such as this in Africa.”
Ms Miller-Thomas, said: “I first invested in African Land at the very beginning when it was just a concept. It was exciting to watch it’s slow growth, follow it’s difficulties; as when they were looking for a site for the farmhouse they had to wander about with their mobiles and build where there was a signal.
“I invested because I was interested in helping people to feed themselves, in assisting in the re-birth of a country torn apart by civil war, in helping to provide basic education for those not fortunate enough to have any, and in making a modest return on the eventual sale of the rice produced.
“It must be patently obvious even to the least agricultural mind that the value of an inaccessible area of scrubland is vastly less than a cleared, irrigated, functioning and productive field. It is ludicrous to bandy about figures.”I had, and still have, a very long term view. I had not considered the increase in land value at that point. However, this appears to be a major source of discussion and criticism among many commentators.
“This disparity is true all over the developing world but no more obviously so than in Africa, where in so many places the infrastructure needed to create farmland from scrub simply doesn’t exist and has to be built from scratch.”
Ms Miller-Thomas is one of many investors who have pledged to back African Land. She wrote a letter of support to urging the FCA to reconsider their position.
African Land have met with the FCA since they issued proceedings and remain hopeful the body. Meanwhile scores of investors have pledged their support to African Land and promised to write to the FCA urging them to reconsider their position.
Denis Myles branded the FCA stance a ‘nonsensical act’ and vowed to back African Land’s ‘stirling efforts’ to date.
He said: “I have 11 Acres of Land – starting in 2010. Obviously I am anxious to see progress on the Project. I disagree entirely with the FCA suggestion this is a collective investment.
“I still believe this to be a worthwhile project and support African Land quite happily with the sterling efforts to date in difficult circumstances. Let me know if I may help further with this nonsensical act by FCA. Thanks and best wishes.”
Dr Eoghan Mac Sweeny, Mb BCh BObs DFFP DCpsych, was quick to pledge his support to African Land insisting he had no wish for the FCA to interfere with his investment.
He said: “I am writing on behalf of myself as in investor in African Land. I am aware of the current investigation. While I am unable to offer an opinion on the current proceedings, I am keen to advise that I am very happy with the investment I have made into African Land.
“I understand the need to have as FCA assessment, but believe the African Land company to be of good standing.”
African Land have undertaken a complete review of their communications strategy and now written to all investor with a full update as to the position with the FCA – and general farming issues.
Every investor has been asked to support African Land by writing to the FCA – via African Land – urging them to review their stance towards the scheme.
Investor letters will be published – with permission – on this website and presented to the FCA. The FCA have also been invited to visit Yoni Farm in Sierra Leone to see their investment for themselves.
Workers at Yoni Farm in Sierra Leone, a tiny village totally transformed by the construction of the rice farm, have also joined the fight.
Around 80 workers signed a petition that was handed into the High Commission in Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown. They fear the FCA action could close the farm, costing them much needed income, access to rice and their jobs.